Europe Travel FAQ: Fly Direct from the US or Connect? Pros + Cons.

Europe Travel FAQ: Fly Direct from the US or Connect? Pros + Cons.

Are you planning your next European vacation? Let’s give you some helpful travel intel with a concrete example for the summer of 2024. Flying direct from Los Angeles (LAX) to Rome (FCO), Italy, as opposed to using a connecting flight via London Heathrow (LHR), offers several advantages, especially for first-time international travelers. However, with international flight prices at an all-time high for summer, that nonstop flight also comes at an even higher cost.

Let’s address some frequently asked questions (FAQs) that you might have:

1. What are the benefits of flying direct? Flying direct means you’ll have a nonstop flight from your departure city to your destination. This minimizes travel time, as there are no layovers or plane changes involved. You should also experience fewer chances for delays due to missed connections or scheduling issues.

2. How does the travel time compare? Flying direct from LA to FCO will have a shorter total travel time compared to using a connecting flight via Heathrow. The layover at Heathrow can add several hours to your journey, increasing the overall duration of the trip.

3. Is flying direct more convenient? Yes, flying direct is generally more convenient. You won’t need to navigate the complexities of a foreign airport during your layover, which can be stressful and time-consuming, especially for first-time international travelers. Direct flights generally offer a smoother and more straightforward travel experience.

4. Are there fewer chances of lost luggage? Flying direct reduces the chances of your luggage getting lost during transfers between flights. When you have a connecting flight, there’s a higher likelihood of your luggage not making it to the final destination on time.

5. Will I need to go through customs and security twice if I have a layover? Yes, if you choose a connecting flight via Heathrow, you will likely need to go through customs and security in London before boarding your second flight. This adds an extra layer of complexity and time to your journey. With a direct flight, you’ll only go through customs and security once, upon arrival in Rome.

6. Can I explore London during my layover? Unfortunately not on most connecting flights, but, on the bright side, you’ll get that UK entry stamp in your American passport. Connecting time at Heathrow coming from the United States is usually around two hours. And that is not a lot of time to even make it from arrival through immigration and back to your departure gate. If you should ever have an XXL long layover in London, you might consider exploring the city. However, you’ll need to factor in immigration, customs, and security processes during your layover.

7. Will I need to change terminals during my layover at Heathrow? Heathrow is a large airport with multiple terminals. Depending on your airline and flights, you might need to change terminals during your layover.

8. Are there cost differences between the two options? Direct flights are often more expensive due to the added convenience and shorter travel time. Connecting flights are likely cheaper, but keep in mind the trade-off in terms of time and hassle. For our concrete example comparing ITA Airways with British Aiways, the difference was $400. However, another connecting flight from LAX to FCO this time with Lufthansa and Swiss was even more expensive than the nonstop option.

9. How can I manage jet lag? Jet lag can be more manageable on a direct flight, as your body only has to adjust to the time zone of your final destination. With a layover, you might experience two sets of time adjustments, which can make jet lag more pronounced.

10. What if I miss my connecting flight at Heathrow? If you miss your connecting flight due to delays or other issues, you might need to wait for the next available flight, which can disrupt your travel plans. With a direct flight, this risk is significantly reduced. However, it’s important to know that airlines are required to take care of your flight arrangements and in case of a missed connection that is not caused by you, the traveler, you’ll be rebooked.

In summary, flying direct from LA to FCO offers the advantages of convenience, shorter travel time, reduced stress, and a smoother journey overall, especially for first-time international travelers. While connecting flights often are cheaper, they come with the potential downsides of longer travel times, added complexity, and higher chances of travel disruptions. We recommend that you carefully check all available flight options and make the decision that is the right one for you. Plus, don’t forget to obtain travel insurance coverage for your European vacation — to protect yourself and your investment.

Photo credit: Steve Cozort. For more beautiful pictures, follow our friend, frequent Inside Europe traveler and professional photographer on Instagram.

Hey there, so you think "Let's all go to Europe" sounds great in theory, but impossible to do for real? Well, that's where we come in. We've been where we take you, personally, with our family and friends, but also with as many as 400 of our travelers. We make sure to hit what's on your bucket list and then add some of our favorites. Together, we turn your travel dreams into an incredible time and you'll make unforgettable memories in Europe.